Eating for Immunity
05/12/18 12:14 Filed in: Diet & Nutrition
The 1st of December every year is World AIDS Day. It is a time for us to look at ourselves and examine our behaviours and our perceptions around HIV and AIDS.
Do we really know enough about HIV?
Do we ever talk about HIV?
Do we accept people who are HIV positive?
Do we treat them the same way we treat everyone else?
Are we still scared of HIV?
Do we know how to manage it?
Like any other chronic disease, HIV is a condition that needs constant management. I was involved in an HIV wellness day last week. Angie from Reality Wellness Group was invited to talk to the staff about HIV and AIDS. I have to admit that it was a great refresher for me. I learnt a thing or two about HIV and its management. As Angie said, it is something that affects everyone, even if we are not infected or even if we don't know anyone who is. It is all around us and a large portion of our tax money goes towards paying for condoms and ARV's.
I was invited to talk about nutrition for immunity in general, not specifically for HIV. Although good nutrition is a vital component of successful HIV management, my focus was more on nutrition for everyone's immune system.
Eating for immunity
The human immune system is sophisticated, adaptable and highly effective. It is there to protect the body against an ever present invasion of microorganisms. The immune system has 2 branches: the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system, both providing important protection from bacteria and viruses. The organs that are involved in the immune system are the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, lymph nodes and the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). A variety of cells complete the immune system army: neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, macrophages, natural killer cells, B-cells, and T-cells. Definitely a complex system! Thank goodness we don't have to worry about making sure that it is all coordinated!
But we do need to do whatever we can to support it. And that means that we need to make sure we get enough sleep, we exercise daily, drink our water and eat well. I get asked often what we should eat in order to boost our immunity. Every time, I take a deep breath and wish that I could give people a magic bullet that will make them more resistant to whichever virus it is that is doing the rounds.
Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet. Eating a clove of garlic everyday, or grating ginger into your tea, or drinking immune booster shots is not going to give you the results you are looking for. The bottom line is we need to eat a healthy, balanced diet, bursting with colour. Everyday!
Nutrients that support the immune system
Where to find immune-boosting nutrients
So, once again it goes back to basics:
- Choose whole grain, low GI carbohydrates.
- Eat good quality protein from a variety of sources, both animal and plant.
- Fill your plate with veggies.
- Eat fruit everyday.
- Eat a rainbow!
- Choose healthy sources of essential fatty acids.
- Dairy products have a lot to offer too.
If you feel your diet is lacking, top up with a supplement. But first prize is always going to be food.
Here's to a healthy 2019!